Every school who gets to host the Brown County Holiday Tournament wants to put a good show on for their fans. The Western Brown Broncos should consider that mission accomplished.
The team rallied from a 25-12 halftime deficit to knock the Eastern Brown Warriors into the consolation bracket, riding a 27-point outburst in the fourth quarter to a 54-40 victory Tuesday night.
It didn’t appear that the Broncos would send their fans home happy early. The Broncos got three points in the first half from Brandon Butler, but the rest of the team scored just six total. Eastern, meanwhile, saw Nick Kelch put up six points in the first eight minutes of the contest while Marcus Day chipped in five.
The second quarter was more of a balanced attack for the Warriors, as Blake Rigdon scored four points and Charles Bellamy, Day and Mickey Hundley all each added at least two points. Western Brown scored just three points in the quarter, one on a free-throw by Hunter O’hara and another on a bucket by Logan Nickell.
Part of Western Brown’s problem in the first half could be Chaiten Tomlin’s foul trouble. He picked up two fouls in the first half and did not play majority of the second quarter. Western Brown head coach Greg Foster pointed the finger in a different direction.
“In the first half, we didn’t come out ready to play apparently,” Foster said. “We talked about it before the game. We had two or three good practices before and we were just a completely different team in the first half than what we were at practice. We talked about it a little bit in the locker room and turned the switch on there in the second half.”
They didn’t just turn the switch on, they ripped it off the wall and lit it on fire. Tomlin came back into the game and hit three three-point shots. While he worked the perimeter, O’hara scored six points on the interior for Western Brown, who out-scored Eastern 15-6 in the third.
That set up a fourth quarter that early on looked like it was going to be a battle. Eastern entered the quarter leading 31-27 but the Broncos quickly tied it when Brandon Butler hit a three-pointer at the 6:38 mark. He was fouled and hit the shot to tie the game at 31.
Hundley answered for Eastern, drilling a three-pointer to put the Warriors up 34-31. Nickell answered with a triple of his own at the 5:25 mark and less than 30 seconds later Tomlin soared through the air for a lay-up and with the ensuing foul the Broncos took a 37-34 lead.
Bellamy wouldn’t let the Warriors go away that easily, or so everyone thought. His three-pointer tied the game with 3:15 remaining. The problem is Eastern didn’t score a point after that, while Western Brown went on a 14-0 run to close out their victory.
The Broncos out-scored the Warriors 42-17 in the second half, thanks in large part to the team buying in on defense and executing. Foster said that’s a strong part of his team.
“That’s something that we pride ourselves on,” Foster said. “I always tell them if everybody isn’t doing it, it’s not going to work.”
Tomlin led Western Brown with 24 points, 22 of which came in the second half. O’hara finished with 11, which earned him a special mention from Foster.
“Hunter played exceptionally well,” Foster said. “He had 11 points, which is big for him. He had a lot of big rebounds defensively.”
Bellamy and Day led the Warriors with nine points each. Blake Rigdon and Nick Kelch added eight apiece for the Warriors. Western Brown advances to the championship bout against Fayetteville Wednesday night, and Foster knows the team will have a battle on their hands.
“We have to come out and play out of the gate,” Foster said. “I know they’re going to be physical with us, they always are. They try to match our physicality and the way we play. Tonight we kind of fell into Eastern’s lap and in the second half we started to take the reigns. Tomorrow we have to play our game.”
For complete results of the 2015 Brown County Holiday Tournament, check out the Jan. 3, 2016 edition of the News Democrat.